26 August 2014

Balinese Tempeh Satay Bowl

It has taken me a while, but as promised I am returning with another recipe inspired from our time in Bali. Nasi Campur is a popular Indonesian meal. Translated as "mixed rice", this is an Indonesian tapas plate of rice and several smaller portioned side dishes and sauces. The mix of tapas chosen can vary by region, but the Nasi Campur we had consisted of steamed red rice, tofu satay, tempeh with peanuts in a sweet and sour sauce, sautéed greens with grated coconut, corn fritters, and sambal oelek (a spicy tomato-based sauce). There were so many distinctly superb flavors and textures and they all managed to go together in perfect harmony.

My humble re-creation of this at home is a simplified version that gives a nod to the satay and tempeh in a sweet and sour sauce. And, as many of our dinners at home go, this ended up as a bowl meal, with the satay sauce and sauteed tempeh layered over steamed broccoli and brown rice.

If you make the satay sauce in advance you will have this meal ready in the time it takes the rice to cook. The order went like this: The satay sauce was coming to room temperature while other components were being prepared. While the rice cooked I gave the tempeh a quick sauté and deglazed with a sweet and sour sauce. Then broccoli was added on top of the rice to steam for the final 5 minutes of cooking time. This was all plated together in a bowl with extra lime and sambal oelek passed at the table. 

On a separate note, I have an exciting announcement to share with you! I have partnered with Cooksnaps, a photo sharing platform specifically for food blogs, that will allow you to post photos of my recipes you make at home right here on the blog. As a blogger, a highlight for me is interacting with all of you. I love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and questions, and now getting to see how the recipes work for you at home is an added bonus. 

You will find the Cooksnaps widget on each post below the comments section. You simply upload your photo through the widget, and I and other readers can see what your finished product looks like. Check out the pictures shared by Felice, a co-founder of Cooksnaps, for the skillet cherry cobbler, no-cook oatmeal, and lime tamari noodles.

Balinese Tempeh Satay Bowl
Serves 3-4

Steamed Broccoli and Rice
Tempeh in Sweet and Sour Sauce
Satay Sauce
Optional Garnishes: lime wedges, sambal oelek (or siracha)

To serve, place a mound of rice in a bowl and add broccoli, tempeh, and satay sauce on and around the rice. Serve with lime wedges and/or sambal oelek.

Steamed Broccoli and Rice
1 1/2 cups brown rice (preferably soaked overnight, rinsed and drained)
1 medium head broccoli

Cook rice according to package directions with a big pinch salt. Chop broccoli florets and stem into bite side pieces. When rice has 5 minutes remaining, add broccoli to pot, recover with lid and let everything finish cooking together.

Tempeh in Sweet and Sour Sauce
Knob coconut oil
1 package (~200 gr) tempeh
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, minced
1 red chili, minced
1/4 tsp. turmeric (optional - I like the color it gives)
3 Tbsp. tamari
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Juice 1/2 lime
1 tsp. honey

Heat coconut oil in medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cut tempeh log in half lengthwise, then into half-moon slices (or cut in similar size/shape if your tempeh comes in a block form).

Once oil is hot add onion, garlic, ginger, chili, and turmeric. Cook until beginning to soften (1-2 minutes). Add tempeh to pan in one layer, making sure all pieces are laying flat in the pan. Let cook for a few minutes, until tempeh begins to get some color. Flip tempeh pieces and cook for another couple of minutes.

In the meantime make the sauce. Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Once tempeh begins to brown on the second side, turn heat down to low and add sauce to the pan. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan (that is flavor!). Once sauce has thickened and reduced slightly remove pan from heat.

Satay Sauce
Adapted from The Mindful Foodie

Notes: This sauce can be made ahead of time. Remove from fridge while preparing other ingredients so it comes to room temperature. Otherwise, if you make this at the same time as the other components, make this first and use a medium sauté pan so it can be reused for the tempeh. No need to wash the pan in between.

¾ cup (110 gr) raw peanuts (or cashews)
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
½ red onion, finely diced
thumb-sized knob (20 gr) ginger, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
½ tsp. turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
¾ cup (180 ml) water
juice of ½ a lime, or to taste

Preheat oven to 170°C/340°F
Line a baking tray with baking paper, and roast peanuts for 8–12 minutes unlit lightly browned. (Skip this step if your nuts were pre-roasted). Remove and allow to cool.

In the meantime, heat the coconut oil in a small frying pan, and sauté the onion, ginger, chili, garlic and turmeric over low heat for approximately 5 minutes, until the onions have lightly caramelized.

Add the roasted peanuts, sautéed mixture, and tamari to a food processor. Pulse a few times to breakdown the nuts. Then add water and blend on high speed until smooth. Or blend for less time if you'd like to keep it chunkier. Add the lime juice, taste and adjust seasoning with tamari and more lime juice if needed.

20 August 2014

Mediterranean Ratatouille Pasta

Around here summer is quickly moving in the direction of fall. Although I am anxiously anticipating the arrival of persimmons, parsnips, and Brussel sprouts,  I am sad to see summer coming to an end. So before it completely disappears I wanted to celebrate its fruitful bounty with a big pasta dish of my favorite Mediterranean flavors. I don't think anything screams summer to me more than a mix of grilled summer vegetables, glazed with balsamic vinegar, and tossed with al dente Papparadelle, lemon-garlic dressing, olives, and pine nuts.

I grilled the vegetables in my oven, but if you have an outdoor grill by all means use it. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and let it cook on the grill alongside the vegetables. And if you're gluten-free, don't think this pasta dish is not for you! Use brown rice noodles or quinoa pasta, or sub in cooked quinoa and turn this into a big quinoa salad platter.

This is a festive, crowd-pleasing pasta and a summer favorite for us. So get out the largest pasta bowl you own and make this for your next outdoor get-together. I hope it becomes a favorite of yours too.

Mediterranean Ratatouille Pasta
Serves 4-6
Notes: The length of the recipe is not to discourage, rather to take the guess work out of preparation. The preparation is simple, but there are 3 stages which I have organized sequentially for you below.

Balsamic Grilled Vegetables
Mix of summer vegetables*
1 large clove garlic, with skin on
1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Turn oven to broil and place rack in upper 1/3 of oven. Place a silpat mat or aluminum foil on a large baking sheet.

Mix coconut oil and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. On a large cutting board, cut eggplant and zucchini in 1/4 inch planks on a diagonal. Remove core from bell pepper and cut into 4 pieces. Slice onion into 1/2 inch thick rounds, leaving layers intact.

Transfer vegetables to baking sheet (this will be done in ~3 batches, depending on the size of baking sheet). Add garlic clove with skin on to the first batch, and use a silicone or pastry brush to brush vegetables with balsamic dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven. Broil for 4-5 minutes, remove from oven, flip over with tongs, brush with dressing and return to oven for another 3-4 minutes. Repeat until all vegetables are cooked**, leaving garlic clove on sheet through at least first 2 batches, or until very soft to the touch. Transfer cooked vegetables to a cutting board and chop into bite size pieces. Remove garlic from skin and use a fork to mash into a paste. Mix into lemon dressing made below.

* I used 2 small-medium  zucchini, 1 small eggplant, 1 red onion, 1 red bell pepper, and 1 carton cherry tomatoes
** I cooked cherry tomatoes last because they need less time, 4-5 min total.

Pasta with Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Notes: Gluten-free? No problem...use brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, or turn this into a large quinoa salad platter.

375 gr (3/4 of lb.) papparadelle or tagliatelle
Mug full of reserved pasta water
1 juicy lemon
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or leftover balsamic/coconut oil dressing)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Once the first batch of vegetables is cooking, bring a big pot of water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente (usually 1-2 minutes shy of package directions). Drain and rinse, but just before draining reserve a mug full of pasta water.

In the meantime, in a very large mixing bowl add zest and juice of lemon, olive oil, balsamic (or leftover balsamic dressing if there is any), and mashed garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper - at this stage you want the dressing to be slightly saltier and more acidic because it will mellow once pasta is added.

To Finish
Several handfuls pine nuts, toasted
Handful Kalamata olives
1 bunch basil

Destone olives by placing on cutting board, pressing down with your thumb and tearing olive in half.  Basil can be cut in chiffonade (leaves stacked, rolled lengthwise, and thinly sliced to make ribbons) or torn directly over pasta.

Add drained pasta to lemon dressing and toss with tongs, adding enough reserved pasta water to make a loose sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste, then layer vegetables, pine nuts, torn olives, and basil. Toss gently to combine and serve family style immediately, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to pass at the table. 

10 August 2014

Red Leaf Lettuce and Nectarine Salad + Creating a Vision of Wellness

We decluttered and reorganized our bookshelf and office last weekend. As a planner and a checklist lover I consider myself an organized person. But I am less enthused by deep organizational work involving tangible objects, such as organizing the bookshelf, which seems overwhelming to me. While no single step is difficult I paint a mental image of the process being messy and chaotic: pulling down all the books, sorting them into piles to stay or be boxed up, oh and while we're at it rearranging some surrounding furniture, cleaning behind the furniture, then cleaning the bookshelf, and finally re-shelving the books.

But at the end of the day I love the feeling after the work is complete and we are enjoying the space. It's a cleanse for the reading nook and once again makes it feel zen and functional, exactly what I like to achieve in our home. This is the end goal I keep in mind and is what drives me to create a plan of attack, a strategy to get off my butt and tackle a seemingly overwhelming project.

 This mindset also applies to food shopping and preparation. I don't always enjoy the planning and preparation bit. Do you ever feel this way? But I am deeply nourished and satisfied by home-cooked, plant-based, whole food meals showing up on my table. I value what they contribute to my health, my sense of well-being and lifestyle of wellness. Living and cooking this way is a non-negotiable for me because I see how each step supports my vision of wellness.

By creating this vision of wellness we enable ourselves to rise above the daily, mundane tasks and apply meaning to planning, shopping, and cooking (and reorganizing bookshelves!). When our tasks are aligned with our values, we will value our tasks.

What does your vision of wellness look like? What action steps are you taking to achieve that vision? (For inspiration check out this post, especially Lissa Rankin's health cairn.)

This red leaf lettuce salad is a great example of how preparing a meal does not have to be time-consuming nor complicated in order to align with our vision of wellness. I will often make salad for dinner. For a well-rounded salad, I keep a few things in mind.

Eastern medicine traditions, specifically the ancient science of Ayurveda, suggests that balancing the six tastes (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, bitter) in a meal supports balance and health in our body, clarity, and helps us to feel nourished and satisfied, thus diminishing cravings. I try to incorporate as many of these tastes as possible and also balance the macronutrients and textures. I've created a quick reference guide for you below. Hope this is helpful when creating your own salads. And in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this red leaf lettuce salad!

Constructing a Salad
*examples are not exhaustive

  1. Macronutrients
    • Carbs (greens, fresh fruit, dried fruit, leftover grains)
    • Protein (legumes, lentils, quinoa, nuts, eggs, tempeh, seeds, cheese)
    • Fat (avocado, nuts, cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, other cold-pressed oils such as flax)

  1. Textural Components
    • Crunchy (nuts, seeds, lettuce, some vegetables)
    • Chewy (dried fruit, some grains, semi-hard/hard cheese, sun-dried tomatoes)
    • Creamy (avocado, some beans, cheese)
    • Juicy (stone fruit, citrus fruit, tomatoes)

  1. 6 Tastes
    • Sweet (fruit, grain, starchy vegetables, dairy, sugar, honey)
    • Salty (salt, soy sauce, sea vegetables)
    • Sour (citrus fruit, pickled/fermented food, vinegar)
    • Pungent  (mustard, black pepper, ginger)
    • Astringent (lentils, green apples, grape skins)
    • Bitter (dark leafy greens, sprouts, beets)

Red Leaf Lettuce and Nectarine Salad
Serves 1

1 nectarine, chopped
4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 avocado, chopped
Semi-hard goats cheese
Handful pistachios, shelled
A few handfuls red leaf lettuce, chopped

Whole Grain Mustard Dressing
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp. honey

Make the dressing in the bottom of a wide bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add salad ingredients on top*, then toss gently with two forks or salad servers.

*If you want to make this 30 minutes or so in advance, add the salad ingredients to the dressing, layering n the order listed. Then toss with dressing when ready to serve. This way lettuce does not get soggy.

01 August 2014

Southwestern Summer Squash Soup

Yellow squash make a short appearance at the farmer's market during the summer months here. They are small and as brightly golden as the sun, and when they are this fresh they need little cooking or embellishment to bring out their tenderness and subtle flavor.

I made this soup to showcase them after being inspired by a squash soup my mom always made and I enjoyed again when I visited this summer. Here squash coins are cooked  in a bright and clean broth until crisp tender, then topped with pickled jalapenos, avocado, and fresh corn cut off the cob. This makes a warm but light soup, just right for our long summer evenings where daylight extends until almost 9:30 at night, and the temperature drops to a pleasant coolness.

Somehow it's already August, and I'm not sure how much longer our summer will last here. But as long as possible I'll continue to enjoy soups like this, quinoa bowls, fruit salads (a simple red leaf lettuce salad is coming up next!), and no-cook breakfasts.

But what about you? What foods can you not get enough of at the moment? Whether you're enjoying summer or winter, I'd love to hear your current food loves in the comments below!

Southwestern Summer Squash Soup
Serves 4-6
Notes: You want to use squash and zucchini that have a narrow and firm body, which usually ensures they will have a tighter center (i.e. smaller/fewer seeds) and will not completely turn to mush when cooked.

Knob ghee (or extra-virgin olive oil)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red chili, minced (or jalapeno)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Handful cilantro with tender stems, finely chopped, separating stems from leaves
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
7-8 cups / up to 2 liters water
1 Tbsp. salt
6 firm and narrow yellow squash, thinly sliced (1/4")
2 firm and narrow zucchini, thinly sliced (1/4")

To Finish
Pickled jalapeno
1 corn on the cob, removed from cob

Heat ghee in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. (If using olive oil, heat over medium-low.) Add onion and chili, cook a few minutes until beginning to soften. Add garlic, cilantro stems only, and cumin. Cook for another minute until fragrant.

Add water and salt, cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Taste broth at this point, adding more salt if needed. You want it to taste like a really well-seasoned broth, with smoky, spicy, and bright notes. It should be something you wouldn't mind having a bowl full of on its own.

Add sliced squash and zucchini to broth, and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until squash are slightly softened in the center but still with a bite at the edges. Stir in reserved chopped cilantro leaves, taste broth and add more salt if needed.

Ladle into bowls and top with pickled jalapeno*, corn, and avocado.

*Pickled jalapenos are very tasty in this and quite easy to find, even here (Migros/Coop in Mexican food section or Turkish markets). But a squeeze of lime and extra chili can replace pickled jalapeno in a pinch.